I heard from listeners after the piece I filed from Portland. Boy, did I hear… Most of the comments were about the one conservative voice I found on the street near Pioneer Courthouse Square. Republican Teresa McIsaac said in the piece that she was generally satisfied with her government on the federal level.
Mary Czolgosz from Indianapolis responded wrote in response, "I cannot conceive of how that can be… That normal, everyday citizens could have such disparate basic assumptions that lead to such different perceptions of the government. How I wish I could sit down with that woman and ask her questions until I finally understood where she is coming from."
After Portland, I flew to Boise, Idaho. The rest of the trip I'll take by car, until I meet up with Andrea Seabrook at Mount Rushmore.
In Boise, I met Charles Warren — a warm fellow who just turned 79 years old. He's quite a talker!
"I am not a black person," says Warren. "I'm a dark-brown-skinned person… I'm not African American. I'm an American citizen."
Warren doesn't like categories much, but he sure likes relaying some of the things he's learned in life. If you'd like to hear a selection from my audio interview with Warren, check out the link at the top of this diary entry.
Warren was born in Tennessee, but has lived in the West most of his life — the last 47 years in Boise. Whatever you know about Idaho, you probably have heard that it's not the most diverse place on the planet.
Census data (from 2000) show there are about 1,500 people in Boise who identify as Black or African American. With a total population of 185,000, that means about 0.8 percent of the population is black. The same data show the city is 92 percent white.
Warren recently attended a political event for veterans, and noticed he was the only black person in attendance. "I think I might have been the only fly in the buttermilk," said Warren. From that, you might conclude Boise is a difficult place to be a "dark-brown-skinned" man.
But Warren says that's not so: "These are great people — this is a great community." Warren says he's never run into any problems here, not even when it comes to voting. But he's aware that people in other parts of the country — especially the South — have had problems.
Warren remembers his parents telling him about poll taxes and various other schemes to keep blacks away from the polls. And he remembers the news stories about voting rights activists murdered in Mississippi, which eventually led to the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Because other blacks had difficulty voting, Warren says he's always taken that right very seriously. It upsets him that so many other people in the country don't vote.
Warren's politics seem not to be a simple case of liberal versus conservative. He says he's an independent. There's an Al Gore bumper sticker on the Cadillac in his driveway. But he also listens to Michael Savage on the radio. Savage's Web site screams, "SHOW THESE PHOTOS TO YOUR LIBERAL FRIENDS!"
Of his government, Warren says he values integrity above everything else. And when he sees a political figure with integrity, he knows it. — Jeff Brady